Tawi-Tawi exec: Ease backdoor trading
ZAMBOANGA CITY—A former official of the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has urged the government to ease up on the backdoor trading of basic goods with neighboring Malaysia, where people in his province could source commodities like fuel at a much lower price, amid the rising prices of oil in the world market.
Former Assemblyman Sulay Halipa, now the economic adviser for the provincial government of Tawi-Tawi, said it meant a lot for poor people in his province to access goods, including fuel, from Malaysia, where these are cheaper than those coming from Zamboanga City on mainland Mindanao.
“I wish the government can loosen up our trading opportunities in the backdoor,” he told the Inquirer last week.
“For some, it’s considered illegal, but our people are buying basic goods tulad ng bigas (like rice), fuel, cooking oil, sugar, biscuits. Kung bibilhin pa namin ito sa Zamboanga, mahal na ang presyo, mas dodoble pa pagdating dito sa Tawi-Tawi dahil maraming buwaya (If we’re going to buy these from Zamboanga, it would double the price because there were a lot of crocodiles),” he said, referring to middlemen who tend to jack up prices.
He also proposed revitalizing the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga), which was set up in the early 1990s supposedly to increase trade and partnerships between and among the four neighboring east Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) countries.
“It’s important to revive the BIMP-Eaga because, looking at the map alone, we’re situated at the center of these countries, which could greatly help us in addressing the source of our fuel in time of crisis,” Halipa said in Filipino. “This is one trading arrangement that will help our economy.”
Five days ago, gasoline coming from Malaysia already fetched P75 per liter in Jolo, Sulu, while those sourced from Zamboanga City were already selling for P100 per liter.
In Zamboanga, where fuel prices still hovered at P87 per liter for diesel and P92 per liter for gasoline, businessmen already expressed concern, bracing themselves against the likelihood that prices would hit P100 per liter next week.
Oliver Ong, vice president for external affairs of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said he expected another round of fuel price increase next week which would seriously affect local businesses.
“[The] impact is really bad. It diminishes the purchasing power of the peso. The recent wage increase may not even be enough to mitigate the runaway fuel prices. All are suffering. I hope this is only temporary,” he said.
Pedro Rufo Soliven, PCCI regional governor for Western Mindanao, said the skyrocketing prices of fuel would worsen the country’s runaway inflation problem because it would directly impact all commodities. “It would affect transport and freight cost and would have a domino effect [on the prices of goods],” he said.
When fuel prices shot up, street vendor Reihania Alam in Jolo, Sulu, was worried about how to reprice the food she was selling.
“If the current price of barbecued chicken leg is P45, we either make the slices smaller or we have to increase the price,” Alam said.
She said she knew her regular customers would complain. “But we can’t do anything else, the prices of gasoline are shooting up,” she said in vernacular.
Soliven said it was time to explore policies that would lessen the consumption of fuel, such as adopting a four-day work week among employees, energy conservation and other belt-tightening measures.
“Expect the worst with the current high cost of fuel,” he said, stressing that small, medium and micro enterprises would be the first to get hit.
“There is hyperinflation, there is this need to push for austerity measures. With the [surge in] fuel costs, expect the rise of petty crimes,” he said. “We need to focus on food security, on human security vis-a-vis the national security, [because] remember, an empty stomach knows no law.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.